Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.
Rin is only sixteen when she passes the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the best and brightest, and enters the Academy to escape an arranged marriage and finally prove herself worthy. However, passing the test and training at the academy, Rin learns, are two opposite things. Once she is there, she instantly targeted for her skin, her poverty and her gender. A war orphan from the Rooster Province should not last a day in the Academy. While a war grows between the Empire and the Federation of Mugen, Rin’s powers may be the only thing that can save her people. Until she learns that she holds a skill that could cost her the price of her humanity.
I do not doubt that this book will top most end of year lists. Believe the hype. It is truly worth it.
Check the content warnings at the end because The Poppy War is not a dull read. It is fast-paced, bloody and detailed with its scenes of violence. Fang ‘Rin’ Runin is an ambitious war orphan who blackmails her way into the Keju examination and is forced to contend with students whose privilege put their experience years before her own. Her drive to do better and take a reign in her life is compelling and fantastic to read.
The cast of characters we interact with are extraordinarily diverse and intricately detailed with complex and unique characterisations. You hate them on one page but slowly sympathise with the next. Their choices are dangerous but realistic. The story is uncomfortable but so real to read.
Many scenes are, I warn, very, very dark. Horrifically violent that felt physically ill to read at multiple points. If you have looked into the book world, The Poppy War is everywhere. Moreover, rightfully so. However, take note before you jump into this book.
The scale and depth of The Poppy War make this book nothing short of a masterpiece. The strong world-building with its detailed and crafted characters as they try to survive this brutal and devastating world.
I’m excited to see where it will go from here and what we will expect to see in future novels. Watch out for this series. It’s here to stay.
Trigger/Content Warnings: self-harm, suicide, rape, sexual assault, murder, genocide, massacres, torture, mutilation, drug abuse, ableism, physical and emotional abuse.